POLISH & AMERICAN CHRISTMAS
Traditionally Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas season in America. But at shopping centers the first Christmas displays can be already be seen in October and early November. Also in Poland many people complain about rushing the holidays, when they see decorations go about right after All Saints and All Souls Day (Nov. 1-2). In America, some families put up their Christmas trees shortly after Thanksgiving, so they are sick of them by the time Christmas rolls around.
Much of American Christmas lore centers on Santa Claus, because that character is such a convenient marketing tool. Santa is portrayed as a plump, overgrown elf in a red suit who travels through the sky in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. He is said to slide down the chimney, fill stockings hanging by the fireplace with goodies and leave presents under the Christmas tree.
Christmas carols tell the story of Jesus' birth, while holiday songs talk about a white Christmas, snowmen, Santa, children playing and chestnuts roasting. Typical American Christmas symbols are Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, sleighs, snowmen, elves, candy canes, holly wreaths and bells. Polish Christmas symbols include the Christmas tree as well as star of Bethlehem, Christmas cribs, hay and the white Christmas wafer. But due to high-powered marketing, all the alien Anglo-commercial Yuletide artifacts are increasingly seeping into Poland.
To most Americans that big Christmas dinner means roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, eggnog and fruit cake Poles mainly think of Christmas Eve supper, where they share the Christmas wafer and enjoy an array of traditional meatless dishes. These include beetroot soup, herring, fish, mushrooms and sauerkraut, stewed fruit and poppyseed noodles.
Here's the Beeb's take on Wigilia: